Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valuing Perplexity

We all have problems. We all grapple with the unknown, about the Universe, sure, but more specifically about our own complicated life. We all want to solve our problems as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Sometimes it is only by questioning, or struggling, that we are driven to understand an otherwise hidden part of ourselves and our potential. Our questions fuel us to open our hearts, to seek for inspiration, to perform the necessary work, and more profoundly, to abandon our will to the grander wisdom of the divine. We must at once be willing to seek and do, and also sit comfortably and simply be with what we don’t know or with what doesn’t feel comfortable-happily resolved with the phrase, “I don’t know.” And sometimes to get real answers we must be willing to sit in our own darkness for a while.

This human tendency for control occurs regularly in our yoga practice as many of us strive to either know everything there is to know about yoga or try to perfect our poses; we usually eagerly fill in whatever blanks present themselves in our life’s scripts.

Instead, let us practice this week the yoga principle of Santosha, or contentment, by learning to sit with and even value perplexity.

The following poem by David Whyte seems to speak directly to learning from the darkness, instead of running from it.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

~ David Whyte ~

See you in class!



Anonymous said...

Perplexity is overwhelming most of the time. However, there are times when it feel enlightening to sit in the dark and ponder, dream, invision my own life's little problems. For me it is the "aloneness" that allows me the freedom to think what I want and dream wherever my thoughts take me. The problem that I see for myself is that many others demand my time making time for myself the only thing left at the end of a full day... and when I sit in the dark for five minutes I usually fall asleep.

I love your thoughts--keep writing!

Anonymous said...

Here's a poem that also speaks to this message. . .

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

O'Shea said...

Perplexity... definitely a familiar feeling. It's taken me so long to start feeling comfortable with it -- mainly when it comes to understanding people. I like the second stanza (when taken literally) of "Sweet Darkness" because it makes me think of when my daughter was young... back when she believed she disappeared and we couldn't see her whenever she closed her eyes. I love that poem. I also appreciate the poem in the comment above.

Annie Gam said...

When perplexity takes over, I have found this new way of "coming back" to the present moment by acknowledging and touching simple things around me, like a glass, a pen, a vase, a picture. It brings me back "home" and I know I am safe, right here, right now.
And then, there is my breath when practicing yoga--that deep, whisper breath, that allows me to revel in the mind-body connection that presents itself. I become all-consumed and feel like I have been lifted right off the earth, that I am flying high above traveling throughout the vast reaches of space. There is peace--the utmost contentment and an opening somewhere in my body that allows me to say that this is the best I have ever felt. Ahhhh ...

Scottro said...

That's wonderful. There's another great poet, Wallace Stevens, who said, "Perhaps the truth depends upon a walk around the lake." Just getting out and getting real with what's around puts it into perspective. My Ayurveda teacher always tells me that, "when you are stuck, go outside. There you'll learn everything you need to know."

Anonymous said...

I have to say this seems to have been tailored just for me today. I have been feeling very frustrated and extremely discouraged about recent medical issues with my body and doctors having no explanations as to the cause. Furthermore I have been given a 30-50% chance of reoccurrence for this same life-threatening issue. Your thoughts on perplexity reminds me that "all shall be revealed in due time." ...Which could be next week or in another lifetime... but perhaps the lesson is to let go of the what and why and learn to embrace the unknown with trust that no matter what it brings, it is what I need at this time.

Thanks Scott.

Scottro said...

Thanks for sharing. This is a powerful realization.

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